People with diabetes are known to be at higher risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. However, the interaction between the two diseases is not well understood. A French study published 10/27/2009 just found that Alzheimer’s progresses more slowly in people who have diabetes. An article on DiabetesHealth.com says:
“Diabetes is thought to increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, possibly because of vascular damage in the brain that mimics the dementia seen with Alzheimer’s. But once patients display symptoms of the disease, the current study suggests that the progression is slower than in people without diabetes. … One complication may be that the medications used to help control blood sugar have a protective effect on the brain….”
Most of us have heard of neurons. But have you ever heard of glial cells? They make up almost 90% of the brain, and science is beginning to explore what they do and how they might contribute to thought. Originally thought to simply be the “brick and mortar” that insulated neurons, glial cells are now known to communicate with each other and with neurons,. They can produce neurotransmitters, and they appear to be essential for forming new neurons and connections between neurons. Who knew?
Scientific American interviewed Andrew Koob (Ph.D. is neuroscience from Purdue University) about glial cells and why they orginally got no respect.
The “60 Minutes” TV program recently ran a segment on long-term effects of concussions sustained in sports. First associated with pro boxers, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a condition seen only in people who suffer repeated dazing blows to the head. It is diagnosed after death by examining brain tissue for abnormal proteins that show up as dark brown pigment in brain sections. These proteins are neurofibrillary tangles of tau, which are also characteristic of Alzheimer’s and other dementing illnesses. CTE has been diagnosed in the brains of several deceased pro football players over the past few years.
Dr. Ann McKee, a neuropathologist at Boston University School of Medicine, has been working on a brand new area of research on the brain that has provided physiological proof of brain disease in athletes who have suffered concussions. …
“I’ve looked at brains from people that have lived to be 110. And you just don’t see anything like this, what we see in these athletes,” she told Simon
Even more troubling, she says, CTE actually progresses undetected for years, silently eating away at brain cells, until it causes dementia and other cognitive problems.
“It seems to be triggered by trauma that occurs in a person’s youth; their teens, their 20s, even their 30s. But it doesn’t show up for decades later,” she explained. “People think it’s a psychological disease or maybe an adjustment reaction, maybe a mid-life sort of crisis type of thing. But actually, they have structural disease. They have brain disease.”
Dr. McKee’s research found that athletes in any contact sport are at risk of permanent brain damage.
You can see the video and read more at http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/10/08/60minutes/main5371686.shtml
In retrospect, I sure am glad dear old Dad (a general practioner) forbade me from playing contact sports while growing up!